Another popular Indianapolis entertainer is on his way to achieving national – and possibly, international – notoriety.
Singer Kenny Dodson has been selected as lead vocalist of a new version of the legendary group, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, best known for classics such as “The Love I Lost,” “I Miss You,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and “Wakeup Everybody.” He will take the role once held in the group by the late Teddy Pendergrass.
“It’s a dream that came true,” Dodson said. “I’ve been working for something like this all my life. This opportunity is really a blessing from God, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Dodson has been recruited to join Jerry Cummings and The New Blue Notes.
Cummings was a member of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes during its most successful years, and is forming a new version of the group to keep its legacy alive.
Cummings knew that it was important to find the right lead singer who could emulate Pendergrass’ powerful and soulful style of vocalizing.
“He had a voice that was like no other. He could tell a story in a song better than anybody I ever heard in my life,” said Cummings, who was closer to Pendergrass than the other Blue Notes, since the two were only a year apart in age.
Cummings conducted his search carefully and patiently until a friend told him about Dodson. He was impressed with two songs Dodson recorded in tribute to Pendergrass, and asked to meet Dodson.
“He reminded me of Teddy, and anybody that reminds me of Teddy I take interest in automatically,” Cummings said. “Kenny also has passion, and he’s a humble brother. That’s what I love about him.”
Dodson’s selection for the New Blue Notes takes him to the next level of a singing career that has lasted over four decades, dating back to when he, his brother and two friends formed a singing group called The Sensations as high school students.
For nearly a decade they were a fixture of the local entertainment scene, performing frequently in such venues as the Madame Walker Theatre and various functions.
After the group’s breakup, Dodson began working as a solo artist, performing throughout the Midwest, releasing recordings and serving as the opening act for such headliners as Howard Hewitt and Kenny Latimore.
Dodson was a three-time winner of the Star Quest talent show and made a memorable 2007 appearance at the Apollo Theatre, singing “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye. He considers Gaye and Pendergrass two of his greatest inspirations.
“You can listen to their music again and again, and it’s timeless,” Dodson said. “Even a lot of the younger people love Marvin and Teddy.”
More recently, with the demand for vocal groups returning, Dodson reformed The Sensations to entertain audiences with their versions of songs by groups like The Dells, The O’Jays and The Temptations.
Cummings has also invited the other Sensations to join his group.
“I’m just blown away by the quality of their voices,” he said. “They are also very seasoned and nice-looking guys. I’m ready to put forth the effort to get them recorded and feature them.”
Formed in Philadelphia, the Blue Notes was led for most of its existence by singer Harold Melvin, who added his name to the group’s marquee.
In 1974, Cummings was recruited by Melvin to be the group’s first tenor vocalist during its most successful period, when it was part of the Philadelphia International label. He was with the group when it recorded “Bad Luck,” “Wake Up Everybody,” “Hope We Can Be Together Soon” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way.”
Cummings left after nine years, and later became an ordained minister. In September 2011, he returned to music to release two successful new songs, “Oh What a Woman” and “No One Compares to You,” in the United Kingdom.
“The passion came back,” said Cummings, who will join Dodson and The Sensations on stage to announce them as the New Blue Notes at the Walker Theatre on March 29.
After that, the group will go into the studio and add vocals to Cummings’ songs. Then a major concert tour will be launched. Although different versions of the Blue Notes have emerged since Harold Melvin’s death in 1997, Cummings and Dodson’s lineup actually features a member from the group’s heyday.
Dodson said he is “thankful and proud” to now be part of the Blue Note’s legacy of well-orchestrated songs, flawless harmonies, seamless choreography and elegant yet energetic live performances.
Jerry Cummings, longtime member of Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, will officially announce Indianapolis singer Kenny Dodson and The Sensations as members of his group, The New Blue Notes, on March 29 at the Madame Walker Theatre, 617 Indiana Ave. Dodson will be performing at part of the monthly Jazz on the Avenue series in the Casino Ballroom from 6 to 10 p.m. Admission (which includes buffet) is $10. For more information, call (317) 236-2099.
Did you know?
– Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes were originally known as The Charlemagnes?
– Famed singers such as Frankie Beverly, Billy Paul and Bunny Sigler were all briefly members of the Blue Notes?
– Teddy Pendergrass was originally hired as the group’s drummer in 1970?
– 1975’s “Bad Luck” topped the dance chart for 11 weeks, a record matched only by songs from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album in 1983?
– Jerry Cummings, Lloyd Parks and Sharon Paige are the last survivors from the group’s Philadelphia International years?
– The group’s songs have been sampled by artists such as David Ruffin, Simply Red, John Legend, Sybil and rappers Big Boi and Kanye West?